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ArtyParti – Writers on the Radio!

ArtyParti writers radioWhat an honour it’s been to share an episode of ArtyParti that’s such a glowing & positive review about the North East’s writing scene.  This week’s five guests represent a mixture of written and spoken word; from poetry to prose to production; from hosting classes and retreats, to being newly renewed by attending sessions & groups.

With heaps of advice for emerging creatives, to thoughts on business support for writing groups, to a really passionate discussion about the state of the North East writing scene – this whole episode features so many conversations about writing & spoken word, and how vibrant & supportive a scene can be.

There’s really too much to list in a single article, so for tons more discussion & information about an absolute wealth of events and groups taking place in & around the North East, you really will have to dive into the episode!

This week’s guests:

Mandy Maxwell, a poet & performer who runs The Stanza, a monthly poetry and spoken word event at The Exchange in North Shields.

“We’ve been running since January 2015; we stared off in Heaton, but recently moved to our new venue in the Exchange.  It’s absolutely gorgeous, has a lovely feel to it, and was set up for performance.  The poets invaded!  We said “we like this space, can we have it?!”  So we do pitch up once a month, the third Thursday of every month.  Poetry, spoken word, music, open mic, and we do encourage anyone who wants to make that step onto the stage.  Here you go – we’re all with you!” 

Kirsten Luckins a producer for Apples and Snakes, England’s leading organisation for performance poetry.  She supports the professional development of poets across the North through events programming, workshops & individual mentoring. She is based at ARC Stockton, but current projects also take her to Hull, York and Sheffield.

“Apples & Snakes is a national organisation for England.  We’re 35 years old, and we were set up with the aim of promoting spoken word as an art-form in its own right, and making sure poets were getting paid.  We’re very big on poets getting paid.  The scene wouldn’t exist without grass roots events like our scratch nights, and other open mic nights; and they happen all the time.  We do it for love.”

Tony Gadd is a Seaham lad, born in 1962.  As a poet, Tony “revisits his experiences, thoughts and feelings on the stuff of everyday existence.  A new voice, with a unique perspective, he’s open, honest and not afraid to say what others avoid.”

“I went on a writing course to get some validation for what I was doing.  I was concerned I had the X Factor thing at home; my family supporting me implicitly.”  And that experience has helped propel Tony to want to start his own writing group in Durham at Wabby Sabby.  “I’ve decided to jump in with two feet to run a  regular spoken word event  starting on the 26th of October.”

Victoria Watson  is a Creative Writing tutor, blogger and the organiser of the Newcastle leg of Noir at the Bar.  Victoria has won awards for both her fiction and nonfiction work, and runs weekly Creative Writing workshops in Newcastle and North Tyneside.

“I’m also a writers’ retreat in Whitley Bay on St. Mary’s Island this weekend.  For both my sessions & the retreat, all I ask is you be prepared to come & write.  Bring a laptop, a phone, a notepad and pen; whatever works for you.  There’ll be prompts and activities, but mostly it’s just a chance to escape from your surrounding for a while and just write.”

Iain Rowanauthor of the Bath Novel Award and CWA Debut Dagger nominated novel One Of Us.  He’s the Creative Director of the Sunderland Festival of Creative Writing, and runs twice-monthly writers’ group Holmeside Writers in Sunderland.

“Holmeside have been around for three and a half years now.  I remember the first night in February 2014; we thought we’d be really pleased if we had three or four people on the first night, but we had 11 through the door – most of who are still coming.  And it’s gone from strength to strength since then.”

On Sunderland’s bid for the UK City of Culture 2021:

“People misunderstand what the UK City of Culture is about; they think it’s about a place that’s made it, but it’s not, it’s about somewhere that’s on a journey towards it,” says Iain Rowan.  “And what it’s doing, the infrastructure that it’s putting in place, the opportunities it’s opening up.”

“Sunderland has seen a huge amount of investment over the last few years.  With things like [the redevelopment of] the Fire Station opening in November, which will be an arts centre, dance studio, Live Studio and Dance City will have a base there…  We’ve got a vibrant music culture in the city; very much like the writing, a very supportive community of music.  There’s all the work that the Cultural Spring are doing, how they’re reaching out into parts of Sunderland that don’t normally engage.”

“I think Sunderland has a good a chance as anybody.  We’ve made it through to the final five, we’re up against some good contenders, but I see no reason that Sunderland can’t be better than any of those.”

On the importance of scratch nights, & receiving feedback as a writer:

“I actually run two workshops a week; I like to give people the space to write, but also the opportunity to read for feedback.  For any kind of writer; whether you’ve been writing for years or it’s your first session,  feedback is so important.  It’s really valuable for writers, as long as it’s constructive.” – Victoria Watson

Talking about her regular Scratch Club events, Kirsten reflects; “It had given people confidence – not just to get on stage and perform their work, but also increased levels of confidence in their lives.”

“If you’re a new writer, you’re thinking so much about the words on the page themselves, or how you perform them [as a performance poet].   But until you have someone who can teach you some of the more sophisticated techniques, I found it brings your reading alive and takes you a mile forward.  How you perform, mic techniques; some of the very basics about how you approach performance as a poet.” – Iain Rowan.

On the community of writers and performers in the North East:

“When doing events in the North East, always remember the audience are with you.  That is the sense you get from the North East, both in spoken and written word, that it’s one big community.  Never feel like you’re standing on the stage on your own.” – Mandy Maxwell

Even at poetry slams, where poets compete head-to-head, Tony Gadd says “people want you to do well – it’s not about challenging, and shouting people down – the audience is willing you on.” 

“Just look at us – we all know each other, one way or another.  And we cover Stockton, Durham, Newcastle, North Tyneside, Sunderland…  There is this network, and people are so incredibly supportive of each other.  It’s fantastic.” – Iain Rowan

“People travel all over to support each other.  This is why there’s a community – “oh, you’ve driven all the way from Consett?”  And we do; we all get together and try out venues and places all over.  It’s these kind of places that allow people to get the confidence to move on to bigger things.” – Kirsten Luckins

“Just a word of warning for anyone thinking of doing performance poetry or stand up for the first time…  You stand up, do it for the first time, do it just once…  And then before you know it, you’re travelling all over the North East, you’re writing poetry, you’re entering slams; it’s really addictive!  There is a buzz and an adrenaline surge to performing.  Even really experience poets still get stage nerves, but the buzz is great!” – Iain Rowan

ArtyParti was produced & presented by Jay Sykes.

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